Are Trade Schools Becoming More Popular after the Pandemic?

students during pandemic

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Currently, the number of job openings in the United States surpasses the number of people available and qualified to fill them.1 This represents a stark contrast to the dire economic situation that saw unemployment rates reach record highs just a year ago.2

The effects of the pandemic, however, might have encouraged more people to consider trade school programs. This could help ease the skilled trades shortage employers have reportedly experienced in recent years.

Let’s take a look at why fewer people are enrolling in college, what opportunities the skilled trades might hold, and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted vocational schools.

What Adults Going Back to School Want from Education

Nearly 46% of Americans view additional education as necessary to advance their careers, finds a tandem survey conducted by the Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights and Gallup, Inc.1 The majority of respondents without degrees even have plans to continue their education within the next five years, pointing to a growing desire among adults to improve their professional opportunities.1 But what are these returning students looking for from their education?

  • The same Strada-Gallup survey concluded that adults without college degrees were more likely to identify guaranteed employment as the greatest motivating factor for returning to school, with wage increases and job placement being closely associated.1
  • Many respondents also highlighted the importance of flexible classes and training to accommodate the schedules of non-traditional students.1
  • Lower tuition costs and in-demand training are other preferences of adult learners returning to school.1

Why College Enrollment Has Been Declining

Another survey conducted by Strada looked into the specific obstacles keeping willing students from enrolling in college. A group of experienced education experts pinpointed a variety of challenges they felt were to blame for the decline in enrollment.

  • An overwhelming majority identified family financial pressure as the number one factor preventing more learners from pursuing a college degree.3
  • Another notable finding was a disconnect between degree and employment.
  • Some other factors included discomfort with online learning, questions about the value of college and college not meeting student expectations.3

Are Trade Schools Better than College? 4 Advantages

Whether or not trade schools are better than college depends on each individual student’s specific resources, goals and preferences. But there can be benefits of trade school for students concerned about tuition costs, job prospects after graduation, flexible scheduling and in-person instruction.

4 Benefits of Trade School

1. Fewer Years of Paying Tuition

It’s not surprising that financial pressures were identified as the most common obstacle standing between adults and higher education.3 With tuition rates continuing to rise unabated and a student debt crisis, learners are looking for a viable alternative.4

For many, the skilled trades are a promising option. Addressing financial concerns, trade school programs are often shorter than 4-year colleges, and fewer years of paying tuition can mean a lower cost of education and less student debt. For example, the average college graduate holds $36,900 in student debt, while those holding a vocational certificate owe just $10,000 on average.5,6

2. Career-Focused Skills Training

Another common complaint about bachelor programs is their disconnection with the workforce.3 In other words, people feel that there’s not a clear enough path from degree completion to employment.

Since some trade school programs can last two years or less, students can get a head start on their college counterparts. This difference could be even greater considering that only 41% of undergrads receive their diplomas on time.7 Trade school programs, for example welding training or electrician classes, can prepare students to enter the workforce upon graduation.6

3. Flexible Class Schedules

Conventional academic schedules are structured to accommodate the lives of traditional students, who are typically younger individuals fresh out of high school without many responsibilities. Understandably, non-traditional students may prefer flexible schedules to further their education while juggling work, family and other obligations. One of the benefits of trade school over college programs can be flexible schedules that work around the needs of adult students.

In-Person Instruction and Hands-On Training

It’s true that the widespread adoption of virtual classes and fully online degree programs has made it possible for more adult learners to return to college around busy schedules. But, some people have become disillusioned with the disconnect experienced with virtual instruction.3

67% of respondents in a recent StrataTech survey report that in-person learning is extremely or very important.8 Since trade schools offer hands-on instruction, training typically isn’t held virtually. This can give hands-on learners an advantage when compared to virtual-based courses.

Why Are People Attending Trade School after COVID-19?

trade school student during covid

The disruption caused by the pandemic has led many people to reconsider their career paths:

  • 57% of survey respondents currently enrolled or considering enrolling in vocational school say the COVID-19 pandemic motivated the decision.8
  • 62% of people who needed to pick up an extra source of income because of pandemic-related pressures were motivated to consider the trades.8
  • Some of the factors driving people to think about the skilled trades are the need for a more secure source of income, greater career flexibility and the designation as an essential worker.8

Is Trade School Right for You?

Are you interested in preparing for career as a skilled tradesperson? Reach out to a Tulsa Welding School rep today to see if trade school could be a good decision for you. Call 855-981-7313.

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